Exeter City 3
By CHRIS PARSONS
EXETER City secured the Westcountry’s bragging rights with a 3-1 victory over the Pilgrims at St James Park.
After a fairly even first-half, Arron Davies opened the scoring for the Grecians just over ten minutes after the break, played in by former Pilgrim Alan Gow.
Substitutes Reuben Reid and Luke Young were sent on to change the game and for a period, flipped it into the Pilgrims favour, helped by the Young’s sublime equalising free-kick.
For a spell after thatt, it looked certain that the Pilgrims would go on to take the lead but against the run of play, Gow restored the Grecian’s lead before, in the dying embers, Scot Bennet made sure of the points for the home side.
As expected, Argyle manager John Sheridan handed a debut to loan signing Paul Hayes.
The 30-year-old, signed from Brentford on Friday, started as part of a two man attack with Marvin Morgan, thus forcing Reuben Reid to the bench for the first time this season.
On his last visit to St James Park, with Wycombe in March 2012, Hayes had scored twice in a 3-1 victory for the Chairboys. The xx Argyle fans, crammed in to the open-aired St James Road end and in good voice, were hoping for a repeat performance.
As is often the case in matches of this type, the opening stages were cagey, with neither side able to get a foot on the ball nor willing to make a mistake in front of a hostile crowd.
Because of that reluctance, both sides were gifted openings in the first few minutes. First, Morgan reacted first to a mistake from Pat Baldwin but could not find a way past Coles before Danny Butterfield’s dangerous low cross was hacked behind by Paul Wotton after Jamie Reckord had lost his footing.
Exeter’s right flank was looking particularly menacing and they again had the Argyle defence at sixes and sevens on the ten minute mark, when Liam Sercombe’s cross, strategically placed between the penalty spot and the six yard box, when undefended and luckily for Argyle, unattacked.
The Pilgrims were having plenty of possession in the midfield, with Conor Hourihane able to pick passes at ease. This retention of the ball led to a half-chance midway through the half when a combination of Rommy Boco and Marvin Morgan had City ‘keeper Artur Krysiak momentarily scrambling.
It took until the 35th minute for either side to properly work a goalkeeper when Hamza Bencherif’s shot from 35 yards was parried and then caught at the second attempt by Krysiak with Morgan looming.
Bencherif was again in the thick of the action five minutes later, this time in his own penalty area when it seemed cleared that he had handled the ball as he tried to control it. A moment of hush descended on the Argyle fans behind the goal as they waited for referee Andre Marriner’s inevitable whistle. Incredibly, though, it never came leaving the Pilgrims, and Bencherif, fit to fight another day.
With Exeter incensed, Argyle pressed on and on the stroke of half-time, won a free-kick on the edge of the Exeter box after Morgan had been grappled over. Hourihane and Alessandra huddled over the ball in the now familiar fashion, only to lay off the incoming Paul Wotton, whose wayward effort proved to be the last action of the half.
The second half began with an increased urgency when within second, half-time substitute Matt Oakley used his first touch to playing Alan Gow. In on his own, but with defenders recovering, he square the ball for Scot Bennett only for Reckord to make a smart clearance.
Argyle were next to attack, with Morgan just inches away from connecting with Curtis Nelson’s whipped cross from the right.
It was a missed chance that was to prove costly when just minute later, Exeter took the lead. Gow may have been guilty of lingering with City’s first chance of the half but the same could not be said here when after turning Reckord, he laid a perfectly weighted pass into the feet of Davies, who fired past Luke McCormick from 18 yards.
Sheridan reacted by making a double substitutions, retiring Hayes and Bencherif in favour of Reid and Young and within seven minutes, it was the latter who made the all important difference, curling in a wonderful free-kick from 20 yards after Morgan had been fouled.
It was a wonderful, wonderful moment for the 20-year-old who ran, arms aloft, towards the delirious Green Army.
And whilst it was Young who had scored the goal, credit must be given to Reid who since his introduction had turned the game on its head with his boisterous and physical presence up top allowing the midfielders to venture into attacking areas.
But, as the saying goes, ‘goals change games’ and Youngy’s humdinger certainly had as the Pilgrims piled forward with Boco denied by Krysiak at the far post.
Young, obviously on a high, was playing out of his skin and five minutes later, he fed Reid, who turned his man inside the box, and sent a low curling shot towards the bottom corner forcing Krysiak into an excellent low save.
Then, from the resultant corner, the Grecians’ ‘keeper was again there to ensure Branston’s powerful header has punched to safety.
Everything was going right for Argyle and with the Green Army behind them and the home crowd silenced, it seemed only a matter of time before they somehow find the winner.
But, alas, things are never that simple in football and just moments later Gow punished his old side, with a lovely finish from the left, after being teed up by substitutes Jimmy Keohane deflected effort.
Argyle rallied but as the game went on and more and more players were committed forward, City capitalised once more with Bennett dealing the final, cruel blow with virtually the last kick of the game.
Exeter City (4-4-2): 1 Artur Krysiak; 2 Danny Butterfield, 6 Danny Coles, 5 Pat Baldwin, 3 Craig Woodman; 7 Liam Sercombe, 14 Tommy Doherty (22 Jimmy Keohane 72), 11 Arron Davies, 32 David Wheeler ((8 Matt Oakley h-t) 29 Matt Grimes 53); 4 Scot Bennett, 10 Alan Gow. Substitutes (no used): 15 Jordan Moore-Taylor, 18 Jamie Reid, 26 Jordan Tillson, 30 Christy Pym.
Booked: Coles 68
Argyle (4-4-2): 23 Luke McCormick; 17 Curtis Nelson, 15 Paul Wotton, 5 Guy Branston, 28 Jamie Reckord; 7 Lewis Alessandra (18 Tyler Harvey 88), 20 Hamza Bencherif (14 Luke Young 62), 6 Conor Hourihane (capt), 8 Romuald Boco; 10 Marvin Morgan, 19 Paul Hayes (9 Reuben Reid, 61). Substitutes (not used): 1 Jake Cole, 2 Durrell Berry, 4 Maxime Blanchard, 16 Neal Trotman.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Attendance: 5,700 (1,289 away)